Heaven, Harvard, and Dogs

Positive interactions with pets decrease the stress hormone, cortisol, in humans. 

by sandy steele • More.com Member { View Profile }
For more barks from Susie, go to http://sandy-steele.blogspot.com.

Last week I barked about taking your dog to work and its benefits. Well, how about other places that pets help humans — like school? In colleges from Atlanta to San Francisco counseling centers are using dogs to reduce stress for their students. Dorm rooms are now allowing dogs and cats to be brought from home to live with their owners. And if you don't have a pet, well you can just rent one.

Harvard and Yale universities have “resident therapy centers” that keep dogs in their libraries that can be borrowed just like a book. In fact, the doggie programs are so successful that students come from miles away just to spend time with the rental pooches! Emory University in Atlanta trains these companion dogs to specifically reduce stress for the humans. Maybe I can get a Ph.D. in stress relief!

Research at campuses across America shows that positive interactions with pets decrease the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, in humans, while increasing endorphins, which make you feel happy. Hey, maybe I can get an M.D, degree too!

Taking final exams is about as high a stress level as students experience — except when a friend is hurt or dies unexpectedly, like in a car accident. Dogs seem to allow people to “let go” of their emotions in a much more uninhibited way than just grieving with other humans. Numerous students have stated, “These pet stress programs are so great, that if the the school doesn't keep doing them, I won't come back next year!”

Here's a little story I heard recently about stress and dogs....

A man named Sam and his dog Oscar were walking on a long and winding road. The traveler was enjoying the pleasant walk, when it suddenly occurred to him that he had recently died from all the unbelievable stress at work. He was a cop. He now remembered passing away and also, that his beloved dog had died years before him.


After a while, they came to a mountaintop with a tall white stone marble wall across from the road. Standing before it, Sam saw a magnificent gate that looked like mother of pearl and a glittering street that looked like pure gold. 
He and Oscar walked toward the gate, and as they got closer they saw a man standing at a desk.

When they were close enough, Sam inquired, "Excuse me, where are we?"


"Why, this is Heaven, sir," the man answered.


"Wow! After my stressful life this is great! Would you happen to have some water? I'm really thirsty." Sam asked.


"Of course, sir. Come right in and sit down. I'll have some cold ice water brought right up.” The man gestured and soon the gate began to open.


"Can my friend,” gesturing toward his dog, "come in, too?" Sam asked.


"I'm sorry, sir, but we never accept pets. You'll have to leave him outside."


The traveler thought for a moment, then turned back toward the road and continued along the same way they had been walking before. After another long walk, he and Oscar came to a dirt road, which led through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence. As he approached the gate, he saw a white haired man inside, leaning against a tall tree and reading a book.


"Excuse me!," Sam called to the reader. "Do you have any water?"


"Yeah, sure enough, there's a water pump over there. Come on in."


"How about my friend here?" The traveler gestured to the dog.


"Sure. There's a bowl right by the pump."


They went through the gate and saw an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it. The traveler filled the bowl, took a long drink, and then quickly gave some to Oscar. When they were both full, Sam and his dog walked back toward the man standing by the magnificent tree waiting for them.


"What do you call this place?" The traveler asked.


" Why...This is Heaven," was the answer.


"Well, that's mighty confusing," Sam said. "The man up the road said that was Heaven, too."


"Oh, you mean the place with the gold streets and pearly gates? Nope. That's Hell."


"Doesn't it make you mad for them to use your name like that?"

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